My name is Holden Galatas, and I am a new contributor for All Saints Considered. Born and raised a die hard Saints fan, I am writing to you, surrounded by snow, 5 minutes from downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Deep in the heart of Falcon territory. Yet, I could not be happier. I have had attempts previously to write passionately about our beloved Saints, and they all usually resulted in criticism from Falcons fans who still have not accepted that they blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. So believe me when I say that I am excited to write to a fan base who cares as much about the Saints as I do.
What this also means is that the Christmas Eve matchup between the Birds and the Who Dats means everything to me, especially in the scenario we are in this year. The Saints have the opportunity to end the Falcons playoffs hopes, and boy that would be the greatest thing ever wouldn’t it? In my eyes there are a few keys to success for the Saints in their last match up against the Dirty Birds.
1) Third Down Attempts for the Falcons
Steve Sarkisian may have had some issues in getting the Falcons offense to work to any degree close to its performance last season. Needless to say, Kyle Shanahan’s presence has been missed. Yet, the one areas they succeed so well in is third down conversions. That has not changed. The Falcons currently rank 1st in the league in third down conversions, currently converting just above 46% of their attempts. Not too shabby. The Saints D will have to step their game up as they currently sit middle of the pack at 14th in third down defense. Opposing offenses currently get about 5 conversions a game against our defense. Our play on these scenarios will have to be ready for crossing routes or slants from Julio. That is where he is oh so dangerous. Linebackers staying back, cutting off the middle of the field and tight coverage on receivers will be key.
2) Marshon Lattimore vs Julio Jones: Part II
This one is obvious, but a key to stopping this potentially high-octane offense involves stopping #11. In the first match up he had 5 receptions (on 11 targets) for 98 yards, with the longest reception being 38 yards. Not bad for Lattimore’s first time on Julio, especially since Latty (that’s what I like to call him) had just returned from an ankle injury. Limiting Julio’s success will take great coverage by Latty, with a little help from Kenny Vacarro who will more than likely shade to the side of the field Julio is on.
3) Back to the Future
Let’s be real…we should have won the first match up against the Birds. That does not matter now. What does matter is the level of passion that the team brings to this rivalry match up, luckily in the presence of the REAL Mercedes-Benz stadium. Where will they get that passion? Looking back to the first game, and not remembering what worked and what didn’t necessarily, but remember the feeling of coming up just short in a game they deserved to win. Play with that chip on their shoulder. I am not worried about the offense in the slightest. We almost beat them WITHOUT the upcoming offensive rookie of the year. If the defense can do these three things, it will be the end of the season for the Dirty Birds.